“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” – Charles M. Schultz
Valentine’s Day is here. A day devoted to demonstrating our love with fancy cards, special meals and the purchase of expensive gifts (as promoted by chain stores and the makers of fine jewelry). However, if anyone (my husband Tom) is interested, I’m with Charles Schultz on this, so fork over the chocolate.
Looking back in time, I can recall the first Valentine’s date I ever had. He was older, drove a splashy sport car and lived in Edmonton, Alta. A man of the world, he appeared suave and debonair as he entered the health food store where I worked to ask directions. Spotting me, as I stood in a pool of golden sunshine, clasping a beneficial bottle of calcium in my lily-white hands, he was overcome by – oh, cut the malarkey Helen. In truth I was slumped in a back room grinding a jar of organic peanut butter. Despite this unromantic setting, Rick and I chatted, and he asked me to dinner.
At the appointed time his Trans Am purred into our yard. I greeted him outside where he offered me a weak smile and a limp hand.
“Does it always smell like this on a farm?” he asked, shivering in his pressed slacks and stylish leather jacket; the perfect picture of urbanity and wealth. I drew an evaluating breath. The air was crisp and fresh with just the faintest hint of cow manure floating in on an icy breeze.
“What smell?” I parried, shrugging in my aged leather jacket and jeans worn down at the heel; the perfect picture of simplicity and thrift.
I clomped past him to the vehicle, but Rick leapt ahead to swing the door wide. This was strange. No one had ever opened a car door for me. Well, to be fair, a similar situation happened once before when the handle on our half-ton froze shut and dad wrestled it loose.
“Now quit fooling around and get in!” he’d said irritably. “You’re letting all the heat out.” On second thought – I’m wrong. That wasn’t the same sort of thing at all.
Anyway, we arrived at the restaurant, took our seats, and Rick handed me the menu with a flourish. He was on familiar ground now. I wasn’t.
We’re talking about a girl whose only experience with classy restaurants and fine dining, involved establishments of a drive-in nature, where waitresses hung plastic trays of tinfoil wrapped burgers on the truck window.
Nervously I asked him to order for me. He did, decisively, and then listened as the server bent to ask me what salad dressing I preferred. With a face flushing red as the honey-roasted beets on a nearby plate, my mind raced. There were choices? Was there anything in the whole wide world besides the matchless Miracle Whip?
Dressings concocted by the French, people on some random ranch or the unidentified inhabitants of a thousand islands did not exist in my world.
And so I muddled through, the evening drew to a close and we parted; he going his way (along the affluent highway of big business, high society and success) and I mine (down an impoverished gravel road of bus driving, family gatherings and mediocrity).
He couldn’t possibly be as happy as I am! Happy Valentine’s Day.
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